Traumatic wounds to the shells of turtles and tortoises can be caused by various factors. Commonly seen injuries include being run over by automobiles, dropped on a hard surface, attacked by dogs, and hit by lawn-mowers. The lesions encountered can be as slight as a minor crack or as severe as a major shell deficit. Minor damage to the shell can be repaired with manual restraint. More extensive trauma which invades the coelomic cavity may need sedation or anesthesia. The procedure for shell repair depends on a number of factors including the age and extent of the injury, and the physical condition of the patient.
An assessment of the patient should be performed before attempting to correct the shell. If there are signs o shock or other life threatening conditions they should be cared for immediately. If the wound is old or infected it is imperative that the infection be controlled before attempting to cover the damaged shell. Systemic antibiotics and wet-to-dry bandages should be utilized until all of the infection is removed.
The edges of the shell along the defect should be debrided. If there are large pieces of shell which have broken free they should be retrieved and cleaned to use in rebuilding the defect. If the wound is a compression fracture then the concaved pieces should be elevated back to normal position. In some cases it may be necessary to use orthopedic wire to fasten pieces of fractured shell together.
The surface of the shell should be cleaned and then prepared for the resin repair with either ether or acetone, taking care not to get any of the agents into the deficit. Fiberglass cloth should be prepared by autoclaving round or oval pieces which have been pre-cut to the size of the defect. Round edges on the cloth prevent it from unraveling. The cloth should extend 1.5 cm to 3 cm beyond the margins of the wound. In cases of line-cracks the cloth should extend on either side by the same margins.